A former Sydney barrister has been jailed for possessing child abuse material after police seized electronics belonging to him.
Richard James Horsley was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 1 year and 10 months at Downing Centre District Court.
The 61-year-old had his computers examined which contained over 1000 child abuse images.
At the sentencing, evidence was put forward that Mr Horsley suffered from a porn addiction and was attempting to address this before his arrest.
Prior to his retirement he practiced at the prestigious '8 Wentworth Chambers'.
Police Discover Offending
Police first became suspicious in 2018 and attended Horsley's Alexandria residence. They executed a search warrant at his house and also questioned him.
Initially he denied any knowledge of child pornography items. However, under further interrogation, the now 61-year-old conceded that there may be child abuse material in his home.
He led detectives to two HP laptops, an iPad, a Kindle and an iPhone X which he admitted to owning. He also provided them with the passwords. This is something he was not required to do.
Generally Police have significant difficulty in getting access to electronic items such as iPads and iPhones without a password. The process is both expensive and arduous and success is not not guaranteed.
An agreed statement of facts tendered in the District Court confirmed that Horsley had viewed photos of child abuse material, and that he had downloaded and saved copies of it in addition to simply viewing it.
The ex-barrister was arrested on 28 August 2019 - full 12 months after police had raided his Alexandria house.
Downing Centre District Court
In the sentencing proceedings, the Crown tendered pictures and videos of pre and post-pubescent females and males. Some of the children were said to be as young as eight years old.
Police sifted through over 3000 images and videos. The facts sheet suggested that the "overwhelming majority" of these were child abuse material.
Mr Horsley's Kindle was also examined. On it, detectives found a lengthy list of books with titles such as: Intercourse Addict, Intercourse Dependancy, Asperger's syndrome, Treating Pornography Dependancy, and Your Mind on Porn.
Further, an examination of the former barrister's iPhone and iPad revealed that he had conducted searches on the 'Copine Scale' - a system that categorise the severity of child abuse material both in Australia and internationally.
In 2020 he pleaded responsible to possessing 1617 footage and 16 movies of child abuse material and accessing such material from his telephone.
Criminal Lawyer Argues for No Jail
Horsley's barrister - Phillip Boulten SC - argued that there were alternatives to full-time imprisonment that could be imposed.
He submitted that the offending was possibly due to an autistic "obsession" and that Richard Horsley "misplaced himself in pornography" as his life spiralled out of control.
"He didn't have the same emotional response to the pictures he was seeing that an individual without his incapacity would sometimes have or develop. After all, he's a lawyer. He knew it was unlawful perhaps. However, he didn't perceive the importance of what he was doing."
The court heard that the 61-year-old turned to pornography as a consequence of both personal and professional struggles in the late 2000s.
However, it was only in 2017 that he accepted he had an addiction to internet pornography.
It was on 14 August 2018 that he obtained treatment from a psychologist and admitted that he could not stop viewing child pornography.
He also changed the passwords on his accounts to the day's date - "140818".
Two weeks later police arrived on his doorstep with a search warrant. The court was told that it was possible that the psychologist had made a complaint to Police.
Sentencing for Possessing Child Abuse Material
Judge Nicole Norman delivered sentence at Downing Centre District Court.
She gave Horsley a significant discount for his early pleas of guilty to charges of possessing child abuse material.
However, this was not sufficient to persuade her to impose a non-custodial sentence.
He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 1 year and 10 months. Mr Horsley will be eligible for parole later this year in November 2021.
Possess Child Abuse Material Charges
Section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) sets out that if you have custody and control of child abuse material, you can be guilty of an offence.
Child abuse material is defined as material that depicts or describes in a way reasonable people would consider offensive:
- A person who appears to be a child as a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse, or
- A person who appears to be a child involved in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
- A person who appears to be a child in the presence of another person who is engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity, or
- The private parts of a person who appears to be a child which include the genital or anal area, or breasts of a female.
To determine if a reasonable person would consider something offensive, the court will assess:
- The standards of morality and decency generally accepted by reasonable adults,
- The artistic or education relevance of the material,
- The journalistic relevance of the material for a record or report of public interest, and
- The general character of the material
Looking at statistics for child abuse material sentencing over the last 5 years, no person has avoided a criminal conviction for this offence. In relation to the NSW offence, 80% of offenders were sentenced to some form of imprisonment. 64% of offenders received a sentence of full-time imprisonment.
Possessing child abuse material charges are extremely serious. The stigma that comes with them is likely to follow a person for the rest of their life.
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